Sunday, March 27, 2011

Preview of India-Pakistan SF

Hello friends,

The buildup to the semi-finals has reached feverish pitch and it has been fun reading all the articles regarding the biggest match of the World Cup so far, the India-Pakistan clash in the semi-finals. Lets look at some aspects of the game in detail.

Indian team selection

The only possible change I see is Munaf being replaced with another pacer. The options for Dhoni are Nehra and Sreesanth. It is a difficult choice, because Sreesanth has not played in the middle for more than 1 month and Nehra does not inspire too much confidence especially after his previous two outings. Given that Dhoni's theme this World Cup has been of giving multiple chances to players before replacing them, I suspect that he will give Munaf another chance and not want to make major changes for such a huge game. The Mohali pitch should suit Munaf with good bounce and carry, so Munaf could get another chance. The others select themselves, unless there is an injury to Sehwag or some other player.

Pakistan team selection

Pakistan may also play the same team that has given them success in the last 2 games. But, with Mohali being good for pacers, I am tempted to think that Afridi may give one last chance to Shoaib Akhtar and see if he can test the Indian batting. The other choice they have to make is between the off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and the tall left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman. Since India have 3 left-handers in the middle-order, I suspect that Ajmal will be the choice.


India should look to bat first if they win the toss. It is a semi-final and Pakistan's weak point is their batting. So I would look to put runs on the board and test their batting.

The theme for India in this semi-final should be 'pressure'. The main focus of the team should be to create as much pressure as possible for Pakistan. They are riding a wave of confidence and have been performing above expectations. But everyone knows they are one performance away from imploding dramatically and giving it all away. If they have not done that so far, I believe it is because they have not been put under too much pressure in this World Cup. The one time they were, was by NZ and particularly Ross Taylor in the last few overs of NZ batting. NZ had scored 92 runs in the last 4 overs in that game and Pakistan looked completely clueless with the ball.

So India should look to attack from the outset if they bat first and even if they take a few risks, they should look to target their form bowlers and attack them early, just to see if they will give it away after that. Their form bowlers are Umar Gul, Hafeez and Afridi. Indian batsmen should look to hit a few boundaries off them early in their spell.

If India bowl first, the bowlers should look to put together lots of dot balls. Pakistan batsmen always look to score quickly, particularly their openers Kamran Akmal and Hafeez, and could play a rash shot if they are kept quiet. To that end, I would suggest that Ashwin continue to get the new ball as he seems capable of keeping the openers guessing and quiet with his variations. Their middle-order of Asad Shafiq, Younus Khan and Misbah are solid, but in my opinion, are a little slow in scoring and India should look to capitalize on that. Dhoni should once again do what he did against Australia in the field. Keep the good fielders close to the bat in the circle and prevent them from taking too many singles and twos and release the pressure.

Their lower middle-order of Umar Akmal, Afridi and Razzaq are X-factors and could score quickly and take the game away. But once again, they can be contained and taken out with pressure applied with dot balls and close fields.

One other thing I noticed is that Pakistan have 6 bowlers, but the other 5 players cannot bowl at all - Kamran and Umar Akmal, Misbah, Asad Shafiq and Younus. Okay, Younus can turn his arm over, but is a part-timer at best. What this means is, they are looking for most of these bowlers to bowl well and not get hit. If India can spoil the analysis of 2 of their bowlers, Afridi will be in a very tough situation to get through the 50 overs. And such pressure can lead to mistakes in decision-making on the field. I hope Dhoni and Kirsten have noted this fact and will use it in their plans while batting.

All in all,. it appears to be a contest between Pak bowling and Indian batting, and the team that holds its nerve under pressure, will win.


It is a semi-final between India and Pakistan in front of a full-house and on a pitch that will be good for batting and bowling. What more can we ask for as cricket fans ? This time also, I am not going to predict the winner. Lets hope for a good game of cricket overall, with no security and crowd issues.

Key performers

For India, it is high time that Sehwag produce another big innings like he did in the first match. Also, given that the theme is pressure, he is the right man to exert maximum pressure on their strong suit, bowling. In my opinion, there is a good chance that he will do well in this game.

With the ball, Indian bowlers, especially the spinners, should enjoy the extra bounce of Mohali and if there is some grass on the pitch, as is usually the case, the ball should grip the surface and turn as well, which Harbhajan and Ashwin will enjoy. But I am not predicting any key performer with the ball.

My next post will be after the India-Pakistan game. Meanwhile, lets talk about it. I am sure all of you are as excited as I am. Lets share our thoughts and get into the swing of things.



  1. Agree with you that the only change possibly to consider would be Sreesanth/Nehra instead of Munaf. The other change probably to think about would be Yusuf for Raina, but that's very remote.
    Hopefully, Sehwag wakes up and walks his talk. the guy should atleast play 20 overs and that itself would be a demoralizing factor on Pakistan.
    Sachin ususally does not do well in knock out ICC games, but against Pakistan he has a good record so that is in our favor.
    Hopefully we see vintage Dhoni instead of the struggler that he appears to be currently. Dhoni of yesteryears is equally destructive as Sehwag.
    This is out of context, but I remember Sehwag the senior player, applauding Dhoni 6-7 years back when he played those blistering knocks, while walking back to Pavilion. Now Dhoni is captain and Sehwag plays under him. Hopefully Dhoni plays one of those knocks.

  2. it's gonna be exciting match.I don't think Akhtar will get a chance in 11. My guess is Gauti will play a big inning. Though seems weak link, Munaf is better choice than nehra or sree. Only thing is, munaf needs to be more positive towards taking wickets and not just stopping runs. That will make him unpredictable. I think he is bowling as per teams plans. ( i see "not sticking to plan" issue with sree and nehra. Praveen would have been best, but not available). I am betting that management will suggest Munaf to get more positive and he might end up as wicket taker.
    As Pak batting line up is not that established (Umar is highest run getter at rank 29 in this world cup), we can afford positive bowling and not worry about runs.
    Either way, we have to appreciate the courage of this Pak team. captain and 2 lead bowlers in match fixing controversy, one fine day wktkeeper flees to London, negative support management, corrupt administration, not so past history of couch murder and what not! I don't think there is any team thrown with so many obstacles. Any other team would have sunk to bottom. I am surprised that there is not a single article that talks about this tough metal attitude of this Pak team. (Lack of which has cost SA success so many times.) This Pak team has seen so much of crap thrown at them and still thrived. That makes them really dangerous in the 4th department of cricket i.e. Mental.

    Looking forward for a exciting match.

  3. there you go, its either Pakistan/India vs SriLanka.

    Possible predictions ...
    Pakistan vs Srilanka - 70/30 in favor of SriLanka.
    India vs SriLanka - 60/40 in favor of Srilanka.

    India vs Pakistan - 55/45 in favor of India.

  4. The game is best viewed as a contest between the world's strongest batting lineup and a very strong bowling lineup. However, Pakistan's batting in this series has been below par to say the least, with only 1 player scoring more than 200 runs. On the other hand, India have 4 such batsmen.
    I'd say it's 60-40 India..

  5. By statistics, 60/40 does seem like a good ratio for a win by India, but Pakistan have X factor, which somewhat changes things a bit.

  6. first 25 overs gone and 3 pak spinners have done better than pak pace. Dis Dhoni missed the trick by leaving ashwin?